This isn’t as self-indulgent a post as it looks, I promise. I’ve had loads of Tweets etc asking me what readings I’d picked for my secular wedding back in September, before and since. The reading-picking process was simultaneously one of the most fun and most stressful parts of wedding planning! And I ended up using the extract from Wild Awake as the opening quotation for Somewhere Only We Know. So if it helps anyone else, here are the three I ended up using, followed by the other six from my shortlist that sadly didn’t make the cut – mainly because we made the stylistic choice to not have any of our readers “speaking” from the bride/groom POV! But these are lovely, lovely readings and maybe some other literary bride will find my collection useful! 🙂
A traditional handfasting poem (which I edited myself)
These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong, holding yours on your wedding day.
These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future and realise your dreams.
These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind.
These are the hands that will wipe tears from your eyes.
These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one.
These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.
And lastly, these are the hands that, even when aged, will always be reaching for yours: today, tomorrow and forever.
Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
An extract from His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
She sat down slowly, and he sat down beside her.
“Oh, Will,” she said, “what can we do? Whatever can we do? I want to live with you for ever. I want to kiss you and lie down with you and wake up with you every day of my life till I die, years and years and years away. I don’t want a memory, just a memory…”
“No,” he said, “memory’s a poor thing to have. It’s your own real hair and mouth and arms and eyes and hands I want. I didn’t know I could ever love anything so much. Oh, Lyra, I wish this night would never end! If only we could stay here like this, and the world could stop turning, and everyone else could fall into a sleep…”
“Everyone except for us! And you and I could live here forever and just love each other.”
“I will love you for ever, whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead I’ll drift about for ever, all my atoms, till I find you again…”
“I’ll be looking for you, Will, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams… And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight.
From Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.
The Master Speed by Robert Frost
No speed of wind or water rushing by
But you have speed far greater. You can climb
Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
And back through history up the stream of time.
And you were given this swiftness, not for haste
Nor chiefly that you may go where you will,
But in the rush of everything to waste,
That you may have the power of standing still-
Off any still or moving thing you say.
Two such as you with such a master speed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away
From one another once you are agreed
That life is only life forevermore
Together wing to wing and oar to oar
That Still And Settled Place by Edward Monkton
In that still and settled place
There’s nobody but you
You’re where I breath my oxygen
You’re where I see my view
And when the world feels full of noise
My heart knows what to do
It finds that still and settled place
And dances there with you
A Vow by Wendy Cope
I cannot promise never to be angry;
I cannot promise always to be kind.
You know what you’re taking on, my darling 0
It’s only at the start that love is blind.
And yet I’m still the one you want to be with
And you’re the one for me – of that I’m sure.
You’re my closest friend, my favourite person,
The lover and the home I’ve waited for.
I cannot promise that I will deserve you
From this day on. I hope to pass that test.
I love you, and I want to make you happy.
I promise I will do my very best.
Time In A Bottle by Jim Croce
If I could save time in a bottle,
the first thing that I’d like to do,
is to save every day ‘till eternity passes away,
just to spend them with you.
If I could make days last forever;
if words could make wishes come true;
I’d save every day like a treasure and then, again,
I would spend them with you.
If I had a box just for wishes,
and dreams that had never come true;
the box would be empty,
except for the memory of how they were answered by you.
But there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do, once you find them.
I’ve looked around enough to know that you’re the one I want to go through time with.
A History of Love by Diane Ackerman
Love. What a small word we use for an idea so immense and powerful.
It has altered the flow of history,
kindled works of art,
cheered the forlorn,
turned tough guys to mush,
consoled the enslaved,
driven strong women mad,
glorified the humble,
fueled national scandals,
bankrupted robber barons,
and made mincemeat of kings.
How can love’s spaciousness be conveyed in the narrow confines of one syllable?
Love is an ancient delirium,
a desire older than civilization,
with taproots spreading into deep and mysterious days.
The heart is a living museum.
In each of its galleries, no matter how narrow or dimly lit,
preserved forever like wondrous diatoms,
are our moments of loving,
and being loved